Sunday, October 26, 2014

Teens and Horror: A Perfect Marriage

When it comes to horror, Hollywood knows teens are an easy kill (pun intended).  Look how they flock to the theaters to spend an evening with Michael, Freddy, and the freaky Ring girl who lives in VCR’s.  And unlike their curmudgeonly, adult counterparts, teens don’t thumb their nose at sequels, especially when it comes the trinity of slice and dice: Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, and Nightmare on Elm Street.  Compound that with their new penchant for torture porn like Saw, Hostel, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and it’s easy for us adults to shake our heads and go Hmmmm.

So why are teens so disproportionately attracted to the adrenaline rush?  Why the insatiable thirst for blood and guts? Reflecting back on one’s own adolescence, it’s clear why. 

There is an undeniable parallel between a horror and adolescence.  Imagine the monster and then imagine it being the angst of adolescence itself – a metaphor for all the anxieties associated with that six-year time gap between childhood and adulthood.  When teens watch horror, they live vicariously through the protagonist.  And while they writhe and scream in their seats, they’re experiencing a personal connection – their own need to survive and conquer on a deep psychological level.  

Of course the odds are stacked against the hapless cast.  They will either succumb or conquer the Big Bad.  And just like Michael and Freddy, Adolescence comes after teens with a vengeance, leaving no prisoners.  It’s just they and Pubescence Personified alone in the Alley of Adolescence, like the blonde girl in A Nightmare on Elm Street, running away pointlessly as Freddy runs his knife fingers up against the walls.  Parents can’t help.  Friends can’t help.  Even the environment is impotent.  Those safe confines of home, school, and the suburban neighborhood no longer protect.  Adolescence rules and hungers for the teenage immortal soul!  But with a little knowledge, skill, and courage, the teenage years can be dealt with sans the bloody sequel.    

So next time you see the walking hormonal hoards lined up to see the next Paranormal 15, root for them!  After all, everyone wants to be the hero of their own adventure.  




An Excerpt from the Award-Winning Cheerage Fearage

Fly high and Die!!
            
The silver moon threw light on the two girls as they eagerly peeled off their clothes, tossing them in heaps on the wooden dock.  They jumped off into the vast lake, giggling and squealing at the shock of its coldness as the dark water swallowed up their tanned, limber bodies.

Although fierce competitors on the school’s most exclusive faction, the two girls were the best of friends with much in common.  They ran with the same elite crowd, dated the same square-jawed jocks, and chose the same stylish trends to be mindlessly imitated by featureless masses.  Quite simply, they were perfection personified coupled with a “rules-don’t apply-to-us” attitude that even the teachers chose not to challenge - the outcome resulting in unequivocal classroom suicide.

“Nervous about tomorrow?” asked the sandy blonde with an I-know-better grin.

 “Yeah, right,” shot back the redhead.  “It’s in the bag, sister.  Fly high or die.”

 “You know I love you best, right?"

 “Of course.  It’s you and me forever.”

They traded playful splashes and squeals until without warning, the blonde gripped the redhead’s neck taking her under.  She held down the thrashing body, welcoming the newfound power and control that had evaded her for so long.  Vindication was only moments away….

Responding to a startling kick to the shin, she released the girl without delay playing it off with a full-bodied laugh.  “What are you doing?” the redhead yelled, spastically choking.  “You trying to kill me?”

“Relax,” said the blonde.  “You’re my best friend.  I would never hurt you.  You know that, right?”

But the redhead didn’t answer – at least not with words.  Her shrill scream was cut short by the blonde thrusting her under again, this time with even more force.  She yanked tufts of the covetous red hair everyone always spoke about, the crowning feature that solidified her title of reigning school beauty.  Brutally jerking her head to the left and wrenching it to the right, she forced the girl to swallow massive amounts of water.

The redhead’s adrenaline now metastasized into rank primal fear.  She kicked and scratched for dear life causing the blonde to tighten her grip.  Overcome with sheer panic followed by pure helplessness, the redhead relaxed into an inevitable surrender.

With the determined patience of a professional assassin, the blonde counted slowly to fifty, waiting for the shapely, agile form that had cruelly beat her out of every competition to go still and flaccid forever.  She delighted in feeling the strong steady pulse slow to a mere fleeting throb and then finally to complete nothingness.  When the time came, the blonde released the body into the dark water without pause or sentiment, and gracefully swam back to the dock, crawling up the ladder with a smooth, athletic gait.

Mission accomplished.

Giddily content, the blonde patted away streaming lines of lake water with her tank top, tossing it back on along with her vintage cutoffs.  She left the other’s clothes balled up below the “NO DIVING” sign and never looked back.  The long-suffering second-in-command was now the captain of the Valentine Cheerleading Squad.

It was official.  The queen bee had be dethroned and destroyed.





Now available from Wild Child Publishing:


Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Big Project

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Lucy: Some teachers have BPS (Big Project Syndrome).

CeCee: BPS teachers just love, love, love the big projects. They love creating them, assigning them, talking about them, and grading them.

Lucy: Big projects either make or break you. Speaking from past experience, I can only vouch for being broken.

CeCee: So when you are assigned one, especially a long-term big project, it’s best to do your bestest because it’s very easy to get overwhelmed with the big project. And when you’re overwhelmed, it’s very easy to procrastinate. And when you procrastinate, it’s very easy to blow it off.

Lucy: And when you blow it off, it’s very easy to fail.




CeCee’s Tips on Acing the Big Project

Really understand the assignment. If there is a rubric or criteria chart, be sure to follow it. Ask questions if you are unsure about something.

Make an itemized list of all materials you will need, including poster board, markers, and so on. Buy all your supplies early on so you’re not panicking the night before.

Organize and calendar all due dates, especially if there are multiple deadlines.

If the project includes research, seek help from the information master herself—the school librarian. When she’s not shhhhhing, she can be very helpful in helping you find the appropriate resources.

Break up project into small parts or tasks. Make a little schedule or have a daily check-off list.

Project should be superneat. No typos, ripped edges, or messy writing. Always word process it if you can. When it’s time to submit it, make sure to write your teacher’s name, class, and date on a title page—along with your name, of course.

Set a date to finish a few days before it’s due. If possible, show the teacher, and ask if you’re on the right track so he or she will know you care.

If the teacher allows, do something extra cool—like a video or PowerPoint.



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Life Science, Mr. Kragler  
October 5
Period 3


Science project notes on electricity experiment (and love analogy) by Lucy Pringle

Objective: To demonstrate static electricity using cereal, my hair, and a comb.

Materials used:
*Plastic comb  
*Twelve-inch piece of thread
*Hair (dry, not wet)  
*Tape
*Puffed rice cereal

Process:

1) Okay, first, I tied this piece of puffed rice cereal to one end of a twelve-inch piece of thread. Then, I taped thread to the edge of my mother’s dining room table. (She got a little trippy about the tape taking off the finish, but I explained it was helping me pass science.)

2) Next, I washed my comb to remove all my hair oils and dried it well.

3) Then, I charged the comb by running it through my hair several times.

4) After that, I brought the comb near the hanging cereal piece and noticed it swung on its own in order to touch the comb. I held it still for a few seconds until the cereal jumped away by itself.

5) Knowing the cereal jumped away because of Mr. Kragler’s spellbinding lecture on the dynamics of electricity, I tried touching the comb to the cereal again. As expected, it moved away as the comb approached, sort of like I do when I see Lyle Whitehurst coming down the hall.


Explanation:
Okay, so the act of combing my hair jacked up these electron thingies because the comb has a negative static charge. And then, the neutral cereal was attracted to it but only at first. When they actually touched, the electrons moved from the comb to the cereal, making them all spazzy. Because both objects had the same negative charge, the cereal was repelled and then voilĂ —electricity!


Reflection:
This was a supercool experiment and reminded me of when I liked this BMOC, Josh Land, who I thought was the polar opposite of me: cool, attractive, and wildly popular. Anyway, it turns out he had this serious negative charge because he thought he was all that (and wasn’t) and liked this other girl, Kandi Klass (who eventually wanted to kick my butt). As it turns out, this negative charge had a negative effect on me. And yeah, it took a while, but eventually, I got repelled by him and now can’t even stand to look at him—mostly because his feelings were never reciprocal and his girlfriend still sees me as hate bait, but we won’t even go there … cuz now I like a new boy named Eddie—and guess what—he likes me! (IDTBC—Impending Drama to be Continued!)
 
Anyway, who would have thought Life Science was so much like real love? This experiment rocked, Mr. K.!


An excellent analogy, Ms. Pringle.
Grade—A+






Monday, September 22, 2014

Happy Banned Book Week!

According to the American Library Association, here is a listing of ten classic books that are subject to being banned in American schools.  How many have you read?



1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

2. The Catcher in the Rye

3. To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Bridge to Terabithia

5. The Lord of the Flies

6. Of Mice and Men

7. The Color Purple

8. Harry Potter Series

9. Slaughterhouse Five

10. The Bluest Eye


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Download Your Cybersmartz

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

Let’s face it.  It’s a cyber world out there.  Here’s a quick list on how to be savvy on the internet and download your cybersmartz.:

Don’t plagiarize from the Internet.  Besides the fact it’s cheating, teachers are getting wise to this and chances of getting busted are excellent.

Don’t get in email or text wars.

Keep the peace at home and talk to parents about rules and guidelines for going online.  Agree to keep up with homework and that websites should be age-appropriate.

Never meet anyone online without telling a parent or checking with them first.

Nix the webcam.  Overall, not a good idea.

Don’t T.M.I. on myspace or other websites.  Before you know it, your overshare will go viral and you’ll be e-famous for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t be duped by those misleading banner ads.  Put the blinders on and ignore them.

Show good netiquette and never cyber-dump anyone.

Most cell phones are portable computers, so apply the same rules with your phone as online.

Blog rages may be all the rage but are tiresome to read.  Whatever you write can and will be held against you.

Think before you post.  Today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy.  And once something is sent, you can’t command Z it.

Keep all passwords private and don’t give away any personal information about yourself.

To avoid e-gret, play nice online.  If you don’t have anything positive to say, it’s probably best you don’t say anything at all.

Know your school cell phone policy.  Even if it’s loose, it’s best to keep your cell in your  backpack turned off along with your iPod.  Otherwise, there is a high risk of getting it stolen.

NEVER, EVER, EVER sext.  Remember, cyberspace lasts forever.

Don’t ever use cell phone to cheat.

Don’t let anyone text and drive.

Don’t believe everything you read online.

If you’re being cyber-stalked or harassed – get help immediately from an adult.

Don’t ever take or post pictures of people without their permission or knowledge.

Downtime is healthy; turn off your cyberworld and read a book or call a friend.





Cyber acronyms are cool to use when texting, emailing, or IMing.  Here are the basic ones to know and love:

BFF – Best Friend Forever
BTW – By the way
FYI – For your information
G2G – Got to go
IDK – I don’t know
IDC – I don’t care
IMHO – In my honest opinion
IMNSHO – In my not so honest opinion
L8R - Later
LOL – Laugh Out Loud
PIR – Parent in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
PAL- Parents are listening
PAW – Parents are watching
ROFL – Rolling on floor laughing
TMI – Too much information
TTFN – Ta Ta for now



TEXTS FROM CECEE TO LUCY AND LUCY TO CECEE


Hi Luce.  I miss u.  Want 2 hang out
tonight?  S.S. for everything.  You’re
right - should have told u about Kandi’s
invite.  Can u forgive and absolve me
for my horrible-ness?
C.



Hey CeCee.  Missed u 2.  Can’t hang
out 2-night.  Have 2 work on science
project or Kragler’s going 2 totally fail
me.
L.
P.S.  I was wrong 4 telling u not 2 publish
about the uniform thing.  S.S.



Want help on your project?
C.



Thx.  But have 2 do this 1
on my own.  Got myself
n-2 this mess.  How bout the
mall this wkend?
L.



4 sure.  R we still B.F.F.?
C.



Of course.  Luv u!  ☺





Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Students Acting Slothy? Teach Them Something Gothy!

The honeymoon is officially over, and it's about this time that students reveal subtle symptoms of slothy sluggishness.  Consequently, around late September/early October, I reach deep in my literacy bag of tricks for my go-to Gothic Literature unit.  Reading spine-tingling excerpts from Dracula, Frankenstein, or Edgar Allan Poe are all but guaranteed to reignite enthusiasm from my students and possibly even the most reluctant of readers who have yet to reveal their literary chops.  (My hope is, in keeping with the theme, they are merely keeping me in suspense!)




That said, before plunging into the dark world of castles, chambers, and creepy cloisters, students require background information on Gothic Literature itself.  It is at this time we examine five basic elements of Gothic Literature, which I have classified into the following categories:


5 Elements of Gothic Literature

1) Elements of Superstition
  • Presence of ghosts, vampires, etc.
  • Unexplained sounds, sights, occurrences
  • Eerie atmosphere
  • Mysterious tone adds to building of tension

2) Emotions and Passions
  • Emotion surpasses rationality
  • Spells of hysteria, lust, and anxiety
  • Frequent crying and screaming
  • Detailed sensory description revealing characters’ passions
  • Characters experience terror and hysteria due to miasmic atmosphere


3) Broken Families
  • Families are often broken, incestuous, or murderous
  • Women subject to lustful wrongdoings 
  • Male characters are tyrannical
  • Women depicted as damsels in distress
  • Family unit confining, from which characters must escape

4) Eerie, mysterious setting
  • Claustrophobic, dark venues such as an old castle, mansion, or abbey
  • Places of fear and dread that portray the world as deteriorating
  • Desperate, dark ruined scenery
  • Surrounding area is dismal and rotting, often adding a haunting flavor of impending doom


5) Distinctive Characters
  • Characters are lonely, isolated, and oppressed
  • Presence of a tyrannical villain 
  • Action revolves around an unrequited love, or illicit love affair 
  • A vendetta or vengeance is a prominent theme

After my students are fully inducted into the world of Gothic Literature, it's time for them to write their own stories.  For inspiration, I offer some creepy music, telling them to listen at their own risk.  (Note to Blog Reader: Play at your own risk!)




Assignment: Write a Gothic Story...

The requirements are as follows:
  • Setting must be a large old house or graveyard
  • An unexplainable, scary event occurs in the house or graveyard 
  • Presence of the supernatural, such as a ghost, vampire, or werewolf
  • Unexplained phenomenon, such as doors slamming shut or lights turning on/off by themselves
  • Highly emotional characters who cry and scream
  • Implementation of Gothic symbols, such as a staircase, shadows, or a full moon.  

With a little inspiration from the darker works of the literary canon, students can't help but get their Goth on.  Whether you are a teacher, writer, or simply have a nagging nostalgia for Manic Panic, it's the perfect time to reach inside YOUR creepy bag of tricks and write your own Gothic tale.  



For more literary Goth inspiration, go to Kimberly's product store at:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Musings on the Guidance Counselor a.k.a. Tween Whisperer

An Excerpt From the Award-Winning Tell-All 
Lucy and CeCee's How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School

In middle school you will be assigned a guidance counselor who is sort of like a “tween whisperer.”  Guidance counselors take on a sympathetic view of the adolescent by providing academic and emotional support.  You see, we tweens are going through a difficult time (as if you needed reminding).  Changes are rapidly taking place physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and sometimes we need the ear of someone older and wiser who’s not a parent and or teacher.  Enter: The Middle School Counselor

You will probably meet with your guidance counselor at least once or twice a year.  Sometimes more, if you are having academic troubles or personal problems.  Either way, be open and honest during your one-on-one sessions.  Your guidance counselor is there for one reason and that is to support you.  Tell them what’s going well and what isn’t.  They’ve taken a lot of adolescent psych courses and know a lot about helping tweens.

Counselors provide support in a variety of ways.  You can use them to discuss or receive support both individually or in a small group setting.  Some of the things counselors can help with are:

Academic skills support
Test-taking skills support
Time-management and organizational skills
Career options and planning
Habitual discipline issues
Class schedule changes
Dangers of substance abuse, like drinking and drugs
Peer relationship support and mediation if needed
Counseling for stressful situations, such as tragedies, loss, or suicidal thoughts
Counseling for dramatized students who have trouble dealing with the stress of middle school


Dear Diary ~

After thinking about it all weekend, I wrote a request 2 see Ms. Clark about the whole cyberbully sitch becuz everyone knows cyberbullying is no joke.  Basically she had me show her all the text messages and took lots of notes.  Then she left 2 go talk 2 Mr. Payne.  Long story short, they traced the calls 2 Kandi Klass’s phone (big shocker) and now she’s N uber trouble with her parents and school police and may even get transferred 2 another school.  Imagine Madison Heights Middle School without Kandi Klass?

So after all the drama, Ms. Clark got all C.S.I. on me and started asking questions on how my year went and what she could do 2 help me succeed.  That’s when I just started telling her EVERYTHING that was buggin’ me.  Including that I’m flunking Life Science, lost my B.F.F., and totally getting stalked by Lyle Whitehurst.  Ms. Clark listened, nodded a lot, and then explained that seventh grade can be a confusing time but that I still need 2 control the chaos and focus more on my studies.  I knew that lecture was coming but somehow it sounded different coming from her.  She also suggested I stop racking up so many tardies (26) and detentions (5).  

Finally when I was about 2 leave, she asked who my B.F.F. was and I said CeCe Cruz.  She said, “Well, I hope you and CeCee make up. She’s a great girl.”  Then she smiled and said, “Keep it posi, Lucy.”

And I said, “Okay, Ms. Clark.  Later.”  

Hearts and sunshiny days ahead,

Lucy



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Dear Diary,

Today Ms. Clark summoned me during sixth period.  At first I thought it was something academic, like tutoring or picking up my awards from the assembly last week when I was home sick.  But I was wrong!  She wanted to get all intimate and personal, which isn’t my cup of Earl Grey.  So of course I was very guarded but then she hexed me with her adolescent psychological voodoo tricks - and it was like my private vault of secrets opened up for all the world to examine – or at least Ms. Clark.

Basically I confessed that I went to the doctor who said I have a predisposition to an eating disorder.  He said it was common among adolescent girls - especially ones who put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves, like yours truly.  I told her Mama is having me see a counselor to help deal with it.  Ms. Clark said she was relieved I went to the doctor and suggested I also meet with a support group of girls with eating disorders starting next Thursday, period 3.  I told her I’d be missing algebra and worried about falling behind but she said my health comes first.

That’s when I turned on the waterworks and started bawling like a baby.  I was completely mortified but then I didn’t even care because it felt so good to let it all out.  I told her I’m a second-rate, dishonorable friend with monstrous tendencies who lies by omission and doesn’t share anything with her B.F.F.  And then I told her I feel positively dreadful about my B+ in algebra and need to make straight A’s because I want to make everyone happy – most especially myself.  And then I came clean about Chase and how I was completely smitten but felt way over my head.

She listened really intently, nodded a lot, and then said I have oodles (yes, she used the word “oodles”) of time for guys and not to complicate my life in seventh grade with a serious boyfriend.  She also said to embrace the chaos of life and not try to control it so much.  There’s nothing wrong with a B+ now and then.

So when I was about to leave she asked who my B.F.F. was and I answered Lucy Pringle, and then she said, “I hope you and Lucy become friends again.  She’s a great girl.”

“Me, too,” I answered.

P.S. I’ve never been one for confession-sessions, but overall, it was an enlightening experience.  And I have to give it to Ms. Clark.  Adolescent psych voodoo aside, she’s very wise - kind of like Gandalf without the staff and beard.  

CeCee


Monday, August 25, 2014

Thrills and Chills: Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids

This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting at the Killer Nashville Writing Conference.  My topic - Thrills and Chills: Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids.

Kids are innately attracted to suspense in books and movies for one simple reason - the adrenaline rush parallels the angst of adolescence.  Kids, (teens in particular), experience a personal connection on a psychological level as they writhe in their seats, wondering...What if?  Consequently, it makes perfect sense that kids make amazing suspense writers - if given the proper tools.      




"It was a dark and stormy night..."  

This is how most kids will begin their suspense story.  Not that there is anything wrong with dark and stormy nights.  Dark and stormy nights are very good when building a backdrop for suspense.  But in the interest of avoiding cliches, I introduce kid writers to the special formula of suspense writing:  G.E.M.    



G.E.M. is the acronym I coined for writing a "writhe-in-your-seat-worthy" suspense story.  It stands for Gothicism, Expansion of Time, and Magic of Three.

All suspense stories should have some elements of the gothic genre, such as the supernatural; an eerie, mysterious setting; emotion over passion; and distinctive characters who are lonely, isolated, and/or oppressed.  Throw in a tyrannical villain, a vendetta, or an illicit love affair - you've got goth gold!

Next, introduce the art of expanding time using foreshadowing, flashback, evoking sensory detail, and implementing "well...maybe dialogue."  This allows the writer to twist, turn, and tangle up the plot.  Tease your audience, I tell my students.  Pile on the problems and trap your protagonist with a ticking clock.  Every second counts with suspense!     

Finally, the Magic of Three comes into play.  The Magic of Three is a writer's trick where a series of three hints lead to a major discovery.  During the first hint, the protagonist detects something is amiss.  The second hint sparks a more intense reaction but nothing is discovered - yet.  And then - BANG!  The third hint leads to a discovery or revelation.  

Teaching suspense writing to kids breeds amazing results.  Once they learn the craft through G.E.M., they realize the power behind suspense and why audiences are drawn to it.  They recognize and appreciate suspense for what it is...the secret sauce of writing.

Remember what the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock said, "There is no terror in the bang, only the anticipation of it."

So go mine your story, and find your G.E.M.  The clock is ticking...